Page 3355 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. What is the minister doing to ensure that the Cotter catchment returns to its earlier ability to produce some of the highest quality potable water in Australia?

MR STANHOPE: We have undertaken and continue to undertake very significant work in the lower Cotter. At the moment, the work that is continuing within the Cotter is the planting of endemic species within all riparian areas and all drainage channels within the catchment. In addition to that, extensive work has been undertaken on the realignment, the regrading and the reconfiguration of all roads within the catchment. Further, very significant erosion and runoff amelioration work in gullies, riparian areas and drainage channels continues to be undertaken.

There is very significant physical work being done within the catchment in relation to the control of erosion and runoff in gullies. As I understand it, all roads have been assessed and resurveyed and are being regraded and reconstituted according to best practice to ensure that the level of runoff from roads is limited and controlled to the greatest extent possible. Significant work has been done in close collaboration and consultation with the best expertise that we can avail ourselves of, particularly through the CSIRO and the Australian National University, in relation to repair and replanting within riparian areas in the boundary to the Cotter Dam itself. Some of the initial advice, for instance, that was provided to the government through the shaping our territory report in relation to the width of riparian area indigenous plantings and the boundary to the Cotter, has been expanded on significantly to broaden all of those areas quite substantially.

In addition to that, as I have said and as I have previously announced, the government has engaged as a lead agency the CSIRO to provide detailed advice on the plans for the future planting and restoration and rehabilitation of the Cotter catchment. I cannot imagine what further detailed work or what further detailed and expert advice we could possibly commission or receive in relation to the lower Cotter other than we have done.

The number one issue for us in relation to the Cotter is water quality. There is, of course, a debate, at one level ideological, about whether or not pine forests are intrinsically evil and that pine forests should never ever be placed within a catchment. I think it is a pity that the debate around catchment is distorted by debate around the relative evil of different species of trees. There are catchments around the world, certainly in the Rockies, in most of Canada and through half of Europe, where pine forests constitute the entire catchment.

Pine forests per se are not an evil and do not necessarily impact negatively on water quality and a water catchment. It is the management of the catchment and the management of the forest that, of course, is the most significant of the issues. That is recognised by Environment ACT and by Actew. It is at the heart of the detailed work being undertaken by Environment ACT, Actew and the Office of Sustainability, in concert with a number of partners, headed up, of course, by the catchment management advisory group, which I appointed, chaired by Professor Jones, and which is given detailed advice on the way forward in relation to the management of the Cotter. At every step of the way I have taken the advice proffered to me in relation to the restoration and the management of the Cotter catchment to ensure that our number one priority in

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